unidentified 40-year old American
wearing a green polo shirt
was in charge of the contingent
of drug traffickers on the ground
awaiting the arrival of the DC9
“Cocaine One” airliner
arriving from Venezuela on the evening
of April 11th with a spectacular
haul of 5.5 tons of pure cocaine
aboard, according to a recent article
in Mexican newspaper Proceso by
a respected Mexican journalist.
Although much about the journey
of the airliner is still shrouded
in mystery, amid the conflicting
reports the outlines of what happened
are beginning to become clear.
From various accounts in the Mexican
press, we have pieced together the
following story of what occurred
during the shipment from Venezuela
to Mexico of 5.5 tons of cocaine
on its way to the U.S. until interdicted
almost by accident at a tiny airport
that closes each night at 6 p.m.
what we’ve learned about the powerful
forces behind the DC9’s flight in
the U.S., the plane’s progress through
Mexico was being arranged through
the involvement by Mexican Federal
Ironically, the seized plane has
been spotted at an airport in Mexico
City, complete with new paint job
and registration, put back into
service by the same Mexican Federal
investigative agency being accused
of responsibility for the flight.
"It's French Connection Meets
Monty Python's Holy Grail"
It was a scene right out a
the air, gliding in on balmy tropical
updrafts at dusk, is an American-registered
DC9 airliner, painted in quasi-governmental
livery, a gold-bordered blue stripe
running down the side, and a blue
and gold Seal next to the door in
the front of the plane, an American
eagle clutching an olive branch
in its talons.
The last rays of sunlight glint
off its wings of the plane, which
looks for all the world as if it
were carry potentates from the US
Department of Homeland Security
to a conference on drug interdiction
at a posh Cancun hotel.
Except this plane isn’t carrying
diplomats or FBI agents...
Instead, it is loaded with 128 identical
black leather suitcases, each tightly
packed with cocaine, an incredible
quantity of cocaine, 5.5 tons in
all. Stenciled on the side of each
suitcase was a single word: “Privado.”
Inside the suitcases, the packages
of cocaine were stamped with different
symbols: a scorpion, a star, a horse,
among others, as though they were
going to different drug gangs for
onward smuggling up through Mexico
to the U.S.
the ground, scanning the sky nervously,
are officers from the Mexican Federal
Preventive Police (PFP, dressed
in civilian clothes. But they aren’t
there to interdict the drug shipment.
They’re there to protect it.
"We're from the government.
We're here to help."
an atmosphere of increasing tension
in the terminal. A significant number
of the airport’s regular security
detail has made themselves scarce.
The smart ones called in sick, including
several suspected of involvement
in drug trafficking.
Everyone working at the airport
knows something unusual—as well
as potentially unpleasant—is afoot.
The pilot of the DC9 radioed the
airport to report a problem with
the undercarriage of the plane.
So the airport is kept open past
its normal closing hour to allow
the airliner to make an emergency
Some news accounts will later speculate
that this is a ruse to get airport
authorities to allow the plane to
land. However FAA repair records
for the plane show it experienced
a similar malfunction a year earlier
in Tallahassee, where it slid right
off the runway before coming to
Milling around in the small airport
terminal awaiting the plane is a
motley collection of people with
a shared characteristic: they are
strangely. They include agents of
the Federal Preventive Police (PFP)
Intelligence Branch, as well as
four presumed narcotics traffickers
who flew in the previous day on
a corporate jet, a Falcon 20, from
The pilot and copilot of the Falcon,
Marco Aurelio Perez de Gracia and
Fernando Poot Perez, will turn out
to be employees of a Mexican Federal
Agency, the Water Commission. They
are both ex-military. They have
both spent recent time in prison
for drug trafficking.
They are not there by accident.
Home free with a big wad and a bottle
Nor is it an accident, apparently,
that they are Mexican Federal government
control tower employee is approached
by an American, described as about
40 years old, with blond hair, a
deep tan, and a green polo shirt.
The American not only wants the
airport to allow the plane to land...
he also wants the tower to certify
the flight, which means the DC9
can then continue its journey
into Mexico as a domestic flight.
No need to go through customs.
The American, cliché that he is,
carries a Big Wad. He offers
to pay cash. But his money was in
dollars, the controller explained
later. The airport operations office
doesn’t take foreign currency, they
told him. They didn’t want his bribe.
His offer was refused.
Surely they had been asked to bend
the rules before. The tension was
palpable...The continuing mystery
is why she turned him down.
“He indicated to me that the plane
would just refuel and then head
towards Toluca,” the employee stated.
She knew what he wanted. He isn't
going to get it.
Forget the fire. Save the suitcases!
The DC9 rolled to a stop on the
apron as far from the terminal as
it could get. Even though the pilot
had radioed the tower to alert them
to a problem in the hydraulic system
in the undercarriage of the plane.
A flaw in a brake line. And indeed,
while it was landing smoke was visible
coming from the area around one
of the tires.
With the danger of a fire, firefighters
rushed to the plane. But they were
waved away from the plane when they
tried to approach.
And despite the alarm shown earlier
about an undercarriage malfunction
causing sparks, the pilot now was
insisting on refueling. The air
controller was suspicious. The American
in the control tower said he was
going to find the captain of the
Falcon, who could smooth things
But that’s not what happened. And
soon the DC9 bearing the American
registration number N900SA was being
surrounded by Mexican soldiers pressed
into service in what might charitably
be called Mexico’s “uneven” War
The news that an American was involved
in the drug shipment is just one
of the new details which can be
gleaned by reading what newspapers
in Mexico and Venezuela have been
reporting. In both countries, unlike
the U.S., the story has been front
page news for several months.
The Mexican press is filled with
reports of the involvement of a
sizeable number of officers in the
Federal Preventive Police (PFP),
a 7-year old FBI-trained federal
police force whose main mission,
ironically, is enforcing Mexico’s
laws against drug trafficking.
"The cynics are right nine
times out of ten."
Ravelo, author of a recent book
on drug cartels in Mexico, interviewed
airport personnel in Cuidad del
Carmen, a city tucked into the most
remote corner of the Mexican Yucatan.
They told him that intrigue had
already been swirling for several
days before the DC9 landed.
Agents of two Mexican federal law
enforcement agencies, the Policía
Federal Preventiva (PFP) and of
the Federal Agency of Investigación
(AFI), reportedly attempted to prevent
airport personnel from calling in
the military to search the DC9 after
it had aroused suspicions.
“On the evening before the DC9 came
in Ramon (a PFP officer) appeared
to the airport with González Virgen,
who said he was in the intelligence
division of the PFP,” said one civilian
worker at the airport.
“He said they were installing new
procedures for registering landings,
and that he would need to speak
with all the civil employees of
What he wanted to talk about, the
man said, was an “economic adjustment”
to allow the landing of the plane
loaded with 5.5 tons of cocaine.
many as a dozen Federal PFP officers
may have been working to ensure
the success of the drug move. Five
were in Cuidad del Carmen, and reportedly
attempted to keep airport personnel
from calling in the Mexican military.
Others visited Mexican airports
where the DC9 was scheduled to land,
presumably to drop off part of the
load, in Toluca and Monterrey.
Get some pepper for the drug-sniffing
noticed three men loitering in the
airport, in white guayabera shirts
and dark trousers,” an airport security
man told Ravelo. “One I had seen
in the airport before in Federal
(PFP) police uniform. He began asking
about our drug-sniffing dog, things
like what drugs could he detect.”
The PFP has been widely criticized
in the Mexican press for breaking
up student demonstrations and worker’s
strikes, for the large percentage
of military personnel in its ranks,
and for the fact that its presence
has had little effect on the bloodletting
between drug rings.
But now the Federal force, and its
local police and military support
all over the country, seems squarely
in the crosshairs of the Mexican
news media, which is much less controlled
in its reporting on drug trafficking
than the mainstream American press.
The crew of the DC-9 reportedly
made frequent trips to Caracas,
Venezuela. And they had close ties
to the two Falcon pilots, Poot Perez
and Perez de Gracia. They reportedly
all worked for the same criminal
There were, still, loose ends. The
Mexican army had managed to capture
the aircraft's co-pilot, but not
the pilot. He escaped. No one appears
to be too concerned.
"I either want less corruption,
or more chance to participate in
But there was one
major point of contention in Spanish
language news accounts.
Venezuelan newspapers related that
the DC9 had stopped in Colombia
after leaving Caracas to pick up
Newspapers in Mexico supporting
the Vicente Fox government tended
to feel Hugo Chavez had probably
personally supervised the loading
of the 128 suitcases, and that probably
there were FARC guerrillas standing
around with machine guns watching.
They even tried to pin the DC9’s
massive haul on the poor fellow
from whom they had just stolen the
election for President. It was,
however, a half-hearted effort which
didn’t stick. The charge was ridiculous
on its face. Imagine Al Gore as
a drug lord. You get the picture.
point of speculation concerned which
cartel was responsible for moving
the load. In Mexico, the choices
seem almost endless. The Sinaloa
Cartel was the favorite, followed
by the Tijuana cartel, the Jalisco
cartel, and an outfit supposedly
strong in the area the DC9 came
down in, called the Southeastern
One thing news accounts in both
Mexico and Venezuela agreed on,
however, was that the DC9 was U.S.
registered and American-owned. But,
as if to make amends for their impudence,
both countries media retailed the
unlikely story that the plane was
owned by “the American airline Fly,”
or “US air charter company, Fly.”
There is no such carrier.
The biggest question remains unanswered.
Why was the American-registered
DC9 airliner(N900SA) busted in the
first place, while flying what evidence
indicates was a “milk run”—a routine
flight flown many times before without
incident? What happened? What changed?
When you’re flying a commercial
airliner carrying 128 suitcases—but
no passengers—you’re clearly
not expecting any serious scrutiny.
So, the most amazing thing about
the seizure of 5.5 tons of cocaine
in Mexico four months ago is simply
that it happened in the first place.
"I'm not a member of any organized
party. I'm a Democrat."
second major question posed by the
bust of an American plane with 5.5
tons of cocaine may be even more
the face of mounting evidence that
the drug trafficking organization
involved in the flight maintains
close ties both to President George
W. Bush as well as to the national
Republican Party, why haven’t the
ghosts who populate the Democratic
Party made an issue of the flight?
The disheartening answer is likely
to be found in what we do know—for
a certainty—about the uncertain
business of narcotics trafficking...
Veteran Miami Private Detective
Gary McDaniel educated us on the
basics of the industry while we
were doing research for
“Barry & the boys.”
"Every successful drug trafficking
organization needs four things to
be successful,” he had told us,
ticking them off on his fingers…
“Production, distribution, transportation,
When you think about it, this is
only common sense. But it also completely
undermines the unstated myth behind
mainstream media reporting in the
U.S. about the international narcotics
trade… that it is hidden from law
enforcement, in a way that requires
diligent police work to uncover.
The DEA's weasel from hell
can you hide the daily workings
of an industry shipping 5.5 tons
of cocaine at a crack from a government
that can read the make of your golf
ball from outer space?
The answer is: you can’t. The police
chief of every good-sized American
city knows the name of the wholesale
distributor selling product to street-level
dealers to retail in his town.
And—this is a mini-editorial—that’s
why voters should take every opportunity
to defeat hypocrites like Asa
Hutchinson, now running
for Governor in Arkansas.
Hutchinson served as the U.S. Attorney
for the Western District of Arkansas,
where he specialized in looking
the other way while the biggest
cocaine smuggling operation in recorded
history hummed along right outside
his office window.
a reward for Asia’s lack of effort,
he became George W. Bush’s choice
to become the head of America’s
DEA. But that’s the U.S. side.
This series has illustrated the
complicity of agencies of the U.S.
Government in the case. The owner
of the airplane in question, for
example, today walks the streets
a free man.
The DEA appears unconcerned.
Before going bankrupt, the company
which painted the plane to look
like it belonged to the U.S. Government,
SkyWay Aircraft, was clearly up
to no good. They had no use for
one DC9. Yet they controlled two.
The Chairman of SkyWay was a former
employee of the U.S. Forest Service
who claims to have been a long-time
has not been taken in for questioning.
Perhaps government complicity in
the protected drug trade may be
easier to spot in Mexico, not because
its more prevalent, but because
its easier to imagine the worst
when dealing with foreigners.
But we have plenty of drug lords
of our own.
LA JOLLA, ARGYLL EQUITIES, RANDY